Swimsuits So Fine, You Could Wear Them to Dinner

Eva Longoria knew what she was doing when she showed up at the 2005 Video Music Awards in nothing more than a ruffly pale-pink one-piece.

The "Desperate Housewives" star was ahead of this summer's major swimwear trend: Many of the season's suits are so pretty, they look like they could be worn out to a cocktail party, fancy dinner — or even an awards show.

“The little black dress has been translated into a little black bathing suit, and translated in 100 different ways,” said Suze Yalof Schwartz, Glamour magazine’s executive fashion editor at large.

Photo Essay: Summer Swimsuit Fashions

In fact, some of this season's luxe swimwear comes with an attached skirt, accentuating the chichi sundress resemblance.

Posh, 'Old Hollywood' styles, especially those with cutouts or peek-a-boo holes like Eva's, are adding class to the scene at the ocean or by the pool. Whether they’re one-piece or two, 2006 suits have retained much of the elegance of last summer, with some touches like jewels, belts, ruffles and bows thrown in to give them that extra feminine mystique.

Strapless gowns are always classic, so now strapless one-pieces are, too. And the retro-looking bandeau-top bathing suit tied with a stringy strap around the neck — whether in a tankini, two-piece or all in one — is a big summer '06 must-have. Michael Kors makes a luscious cherry-red one with a gold chain tie (and bathing-suit material threaded through it) that retails for $158.

In addition to vibrant reds, pinks and corals, jungly prints, chocolate brown, black-and-white and big polka dots are brightening up the sand and the pool deck.

The all-white trend in regular spring and summer clothes has also seeped into swimwear to some extent, though it's not for everyone.

"It's a queen look," said fashion guru Elycia Rubin, the former style director for E! Networks. "You'd better be in really good shape if you want to wear an all-white bikini."

Speaking of royalty, what would Her Highness be without her jewels, even if they are on a little number she is supposed to wear in the water? Bathing suit designers have thought of that, of course, and adorned their offerings with baubles faux and authentic.

Tired of looking so coordinated? Feeling not only tickled pink but also a little blue — or a little green? That's fine this summer too, because mix-and-match colors and prints are out there for the taking. Pair a coral-colored top with a lime-green bottom, or lemon-yellow polka dots with sky-blue stripes.

"It's the season of choice," proclaimed Yalof Schwartz.

The trend is also a natural progression of the existing bikini separates that are now everywhere (thankfully for those of us with less-than-perfect bodies).

The beauty of this season's swimwear, however, is that pretty much anything goes, meaning coordination isn't dead at all. To the contrary. Matching accessories are bigger than ever.

You might remember, for example, last summer's retro oversized sunglasses. They're back, but this year's fashion plates will probably gravitate toward white ones. That's what all the It girls — you know, Paris, Lindsay, Nicole and Sienna — are wearing.

Also performing an encore are cute coverups. In keeping with this high-style season, elaborate ones that look like outfits in their own right are dotting racks, catalogs, beaches and swim clubs.

What to wear on those dainty feet? Try Crocs — those gaudy, tawdry, oh-so-trendy plastic clogs and sandals in primary colors and pastels that everyone seems to have snapped up for about $30 a pair. The inside scoop is that they're super comfortable, even if they look a little childish.

If plastic shoes are not your thing, pretty or casual flip-flops, silver sneakers and espadrille wedge sandals are also safe bets.

Even though swimsuit fashion seems to be all about the ladies, the gents need something to wear in the water too — and they can have a little fun of their own this summer. Stores are showing knee-length cargo trunks in plain colors like clover green and slate blue or look-at-me prints with polka dots, Hawaiian flowers and tropical fruit.

And these trends aren't just for stars, swimsuit models and slaves to fashion. Ordinary people can wear them too, and not break the bank doing it.

At Gap, women's suits can run as low as $20 and as high as $60. At J. Crew, they're in the range of $70 before they go on sale; guys pay only $45-50 with some on sale for $20. And Target offers swimwear for the super frugal.

Suburban mom Kim Black, 45, chose a stylish turquoise one-piece with a bow and keyhole in the front from J. Crew, which retails for $70.

"I'm probably a little bit more adventurous with bathing suits," she said. "I wear them a lot."

Her daughter, 15-year-old Rosemont, Pa., high-schooler Annie, will be sticking with another carryover trend from last year — a halter-top bikini — as will most of her friends.

"I only know one of my friends who has a different style," said Annie. "I usually go with the flow."